The writings of Rachel Adler on Jewish law and ritual have catapulted her into the center of modern Jewish religious discourse, and she is unquestionably among the leading constructive Jewish theologians, translators and liturgists of the modern era, garnering attention from Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, women and men alike.
An ardent suffragist, Apolant served as a board member of the General Association from 1910 to 1925. In Frankfurt, where she was from 1919 to 1924 one of the first women municipal councillors, representing the Democrats, she initiated innovative institutions such as care for sick people, alcohol-free popular restaurants and, during the inflation, a central location for the sale of privately-owned valuables, a Sick Fund and winter aid.
American Jewish women have made major contributions to the art world as artists, photographers, gallery owners, museum curators, art critics, art historians, and collectors at least since the beginning of the twentieth century.
By focusing on Jewish women artists working in Britain today, whose Jewishness and gender are central to their artistic output, it offered valuable insights into the diverse ways in which women perceive their Jewishness in contemporary Britain. Aware of their complex “otherness” as women, Jews and artists, they put that awareness to good creative use; and in so doing, proved that art has a crucial role to play in exploring—and perhaps crystallizing—issues of identity.
Jewish women assimilating into a changing American society across the twentieth century navigated often conflicting gender roles. As they strove to achieve upward social mobility, they adapted Jewish assumptions of what women, especially married women, should do to accommodate American norms for middle class women. Their collective accomplishments registered in political activism, organizational creativity, strong support for feminism, religious innovation, and educational achievement in the face of antisemitism, stereotypes, and denigration.
Accounts of the immigrant experience, of feminist and/or activist involvement, of the changing role of women in Jewish and American life, as well as literary and political autobiographies, Holocaust survival narratives, and coming-of-age memoirs are all categories of autobiography to which American Jewish women have contributed copiously.
Before the outbreak of World War I, over a dozen B’nai B’rith women’s auxiliaries were scattered from San Francisco to New Jersey. They expanded into cultural activities, philanthropy, and community service, such as financial support of orphanages and homes for the elderly. Their announced aims were to perpetuate Jewish culture, enrich their communities, and ensure the religious survival of their sons and daughters. Their unannounced goals included sociability and the first steps toward personal independence.
Elisabeth Badinter is one of France’s most prominent and controversial philosophers. Among her most important contributions figure her numerous writings about feminism and gender relations, which emphasize the importance of “equality through resemblance,” as well as her historical works on the Enlightenment.
Devorah Baron is one of the few Hebrew women prose writers in the first half of the twentieth century to gain critical acclaim in her lifetime. She wrote primarily about Jewish women’s lives, focusing on the challenges women faced in a society that did not value them equally. Her work was in dialogue with European writers, including Chekhov and Flaubert, and with Hebrew modernist writer S. Y. Agnon.
An “out-liar,” as she called herself, Barr was an activist in multiple worlds: breast cancer, feminism, Judaism, education and the Israeli peace movement.
The bat mitzvah ritual was introduced into American Judaism as both an ethical and a pragmatic response to gender divisions in traditional Judaism.
Evelyn Torton Beck is Professor Emerita of women’s studies as well as an affiliate faculty member in the Jewish studies and comparative literature programs at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). She is a scholar, a teacher, a feminist, and an outspoken Jew and lesbian on campus. With her energy and drive, the state flagship campus has become a more welcome place for Jewish, female, and homosexual students, faculty, and staff.
Margarete Berent was the first female lawyer to practice in Prussia and the second female lawyer ever licensed in Germany. In 1925 she opened her own law firm in Berlin. Not only was she the first female lawyer and the head of her own law firm, but she was also an ardent feminist and active in promoting opportunities for women.
Sociologist Jessie Bernard’s feminist epiphany came at age 67 in 1969, but her earlier work anticipated feminist theory by discussing the differences between men’s and women’s experiences and arguing that quantitative studies did not accurately represent women’s stories.
Photographer and photojournalist Eva Besnyö was born in Budapest in 1910. In the 1930s Besnyö moved to Berlin, where she quickly became successful with numerous exhibitions and commissions and spent time with politically engaged intellectuals and artists. Following the war, Besnyö was active in the Dolle-Mina feminist movement and was awarded the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for her life’s work.
A feminist before her time, Adele Bildersee was an advocate for women in education. She graduated with the first class of the then all-women’s Hunter College in 1903 and went on to help found Brooklyn College, serving as both its dean of students and its director of admissions.
Barbara Boxer is currently one of the most influential liberal political figures in the country, having served in the United States Senate since 1992. Her visibility especially flows out of her vocal commitment to feminist causes.
Drawing on the traditional Jewish values of justice and repair of the world and insights honed by the feminist, lesbian and gay movements, seven Jewish women began to publish Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists and Our Friends in 1990.
From 1656, when Jews were allowed to resettle in Great Britain, forming a small community in London until the present, the Anglo-Jewish community has benefited from the relative tolerance toward minorities that the British have displayed, as well as from general economic and political developments. To be sure, Parliament did not fully emancipate Jews until 1858 and social discrimination persisted into the twentieth century. Great Britain did, however, offer haven to successive waves of immigrants, and Jews have prospered on its shores, becoming British and participating in the larger culture of the urban middle classes. The status of Jewish women was affected both by larger social mores and by the nature of the Anglo-Jewish community.
May Brodbeck, whose career in the sciences ran the gamut from teaching high school chemistry to exploring fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of human consciousness, was among the foremost American-born philosophers of science.
A novelist, playwright, and ritualist, Esther M. Broner emerged on the literary scene in the early 1970s as a leading feminist writer. Her novels feature bitter, fearless, and funny characters. In other works, Broner has combined autobiography with feminist critique of Jewish tradition and created new rituals, such as her 1976 “Women’s Haggadah.”
Cécile Brunschvicg was one of the grandes dames of French feminism during the first half of the twentieth century and especially during the interwar years. Although her chief demand was women’s suffrage, she also focused on a range of practical reforms, including greater parity in women’s salaries, expanded educational opportunities for women, the elimination of prostitution and alcoholism, and the drive to reform the French civil code, which treated married women as if they were minors.
The great synthesizer, bringing together Jewish feminism, Zionism, socialism, animal rights and concern for the environment, Aviva Cantor remains best known for her work as co-founder and editor of Lilith, the independent Jewish feminist magazine, her landmark Egalitarian Hagada, and her passionately analytical and theoretical volume Jewish Women/Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life.
Phyllis Chesler, a self-described “radical feminist” and “liberation psychologist,” is a prolific writer, seasoned activist and organizer, and committed Jew and Zionist. Also a psychotherapist and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, Chesler is the author of twelve books.
For three decades Judy Chicago has melded politics with art through painting, sculpture, writing, and teaching.